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I am often asked by both clients and blog readers what general lab tests I recommend for tracking overall health, particularly when a person does not have any significant health issues they are trying to monitor.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what tests are worth running to get a good sense of how your body is operating and to catch any issues before they cause symptoms, such as low thyroid activity, borderline anemia, or elevated blood sugar.
I find that many doctors don’t run routine comprehensive (i.e. functional) blood work unless asked, but most are happy to order a variety of tests to get a snapshot of your general health if you ask them to.
And if you don’t have a doctor who is willing to run labs for you, there are options for ordering your own labs and paying out of pocket (unless you live in a few specific states like NY, NJ, and RI).
In this post, I’ve compiled a list of recommended blood tests that anyone who wants to monitor their health might be interested in getting done, and give a brief explanation as to why a person might want to know those particular values.
If you want to know more about which tests would be important for your particular needs, consider working with me one-on-one so we can personalize your plan.
Remember, none of this is individualized advice and must not replace the advice you get from your doctor. Please use this information for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition.
Recommended Basic Lab Tests
- Comprehensive Metabolic Panel – provides an overall picture of your body’s chemical balance and metabolism.
- Lipid Profile – gives an overall picture of cardiac risk and can help determine if dietary changes are necessary, includes:
- Total cholesterol
- HDL and LDL
- If History of Heart Disease: NMR profile, ApoB
- C-Reactive protein (hsCRP) – one measure of general inflammation, if high can indicate possible autoimmune disorder, infection, and/or need for diet change
- Blood Sugar Profile – gives an overall picture of the body’s use of glucose, may indicate a need to change dietary carbohydrate intake (either increase or decrease)
- Fasting glucose
- Hemoglobin A1c
- If Blood Sugar is an issue: Fasting Insulin
- Thyroid Panel – helps evaluate thyroid gland function and diagnose thyroid disorders
- TSH – “Functional” range is between 1.0-2.0
- Free T3 & Free T4
- Reverse T3 – if high, can explain thyroid symptoms when TSH and free T3 are normal
- If Hashimoto’s is a concern: Thyroid auto-antibodies (TPO, thyroglobulin)
- Vitamin D – I consider the optimal range to be between 30-50 ng/mL, though there is some controversy here. Low vitamin D levels are often found in patients with autoimmune disease, poor immune function, bone disorders, and mental health issues.
- Complete Blood Count – includes iron, ferritin, transferrin saturation %, and information about the size and color of the red blood cells. Can identify anemia, infection, elevated immune activity, B12 deficiency, and/or iron storage diseases
- Vitamin B12 and Folate Panel – Can help diagnose a nutritional cause of anemia or neuropathy, may indicate need for diet/supplement changes, may be related to methylation defect such as MTHFR
NOTE: ALL TESTS SHOULD BE DONE FASTING. DO NOT EXERCISE IN THE MORNING BEFORE THE TEST.
Those are my basic recommendations! These are generally the labs I ask my patients to have done before their appointments with me, and I personally ask for these when I have my annual(ish) checkups.
If your doctor will not order these tests for you, most people can order tests online if they are willing to pay out of pocket. This is the website that I most commonly send patients to if they’d prefer to order their own labs. (Note: some states have different rules about ordering your own labs.)
Would you add anything to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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